So I’ve decided that Processed Corn Pudding Goop isn’t going to have a plot. It’s essentially just the story of a millennial coming to terms with the absolute meaningless of existence, and making the step from that to the realization that the fact that existence is meaningless is, itself, meaningless. A plot wouldn’t fit the narrative. It’s a book for the nihilistic millennials who haven’t made that final step and who are lost in a sea of oblivion–“What is the point? There isn’t one. We die, and then that’s that.” “We live, we die, and there’s usually some bullshit between the two.” This is currently the project I’m working on while I wait to hear back from agents on Dancing in Hellfire, and from Playboy and a few other magazines about “Dead or Alive.”
The formatting got fucked; I apologize. It may fix itself when I publish, though. Even if you read part one, it may be worth reading this again, since I’ve done a bit of editing. This is a first draft that I’m sharing as I’m writing; typos and all that aren’t really important. Like at one point it says “…shaking in angry…” when it meant “shaking in anger.” I make that mistake a lot for some reason. C’est la vie.
Support your local businesses.
Everyone said that. And it made total sense, really. In fact, nothing made more sense as I put yet another can of Supergrocery brand Processed Corn Goop on the shelf, marked down to eighty-four cents a can–a savings of 1.2 cents an ounce, according to the obnoxiously red piece of cardboard paper I’d slid over the yellow one. Of course, it was all bullshit. There was no real savings going on here, since whatever poor sap bought this crap was basically paying eighty-four cents to shit out this hyperprocessed, homogenized goop that the FDA allowed to be called “food.” There was about as much food in it as there was human excrement. And even so, the price had been just eighty-two cents a can just two weeks ago, before management upped the price temporarily so that they could reduce it a bit and sell it back to the fat fucking idiots at a “discount.”
Most people wouldn’t buy the goop anyway, because they’d insist on buying Namebrand Goop, declaring to anyone who would listen that there really was a difference. And yeah, in some cases that’s true, but when Supergrocery Brand is a subsidiary of Neutral Brand that is a subsidiary of Namebrand and it’s all just Goop made in the same factory–yes, factory. This stuff isn’t produced on a farm or anywhere else you’d expect food to come from. But that’s the rule of American society, that rule that only heretics break: Namebrand is better than Supergrocery brand.
I wasn’t surprised when I watched the clan of fat white trailer trash come down the aisle, inexorably toward me like a ball rolling down a hill that no one could stop. Like an old cartoon of a cat chasing a mouse, the woman–if you can call her that, because she was more like a giant toad that some circusmaster had tricked into standing up and putting on a pair of sweat-stained sweatpants–had seen a sale on pudding further down the aisle. She wouldn’t have been trailer trash without towing three kids behind her–and I felt bad for them, but there was nothing to be done.
She glared so hatefully at me as she pushed her basket–a basket that might as well have been called a Repository For Corn Syrup–past me and my ladder, as though I was in her way, or as though I was the enemy in my stupid red vest and nametag. Like I had betrayed her by not calling her and telling her the pudding was on sale. And I realized–that’s probably how she felt. That was her pudding.
Her kids meekly passed by, and one of them even said “Excuse me.”
I pretended to move cans of Processed Corn Goop around while I watched the woman from the corner of my eye, and it was actually kind of cute, once she reached the pudding, how she acted like she hadn’t been running to get there before anyone else could. Well, no, she wasn’t running, not really. She was too fat to run. She’d have keeled over and died right there in the aisle if she’d tried.
It’s why all employees are trained to perform CPR.
For when fat asses get over-excited about the 3% discount on Processed Corn Pudding Goop.
It wasn’t even hard to figure out how this had happened. Of course, no one is talking about in the open, and no one is going to. It’s that elephant in the room, that open secret that everyone knows but is too afraid to say, and that’s why there will never be a direct study on it. In fact, the only graph you can find about it simply shows the increase in how much corn has been grown in the country over the past century. The increase is alarming, but it doesn’t suggest, by itself, that the corn is more present in foods.
cornEverything contains high fructose corn syrup. It’s so common that we’ve now started stamping the outliers with things like “Contains Real Sugar!” This, of course, leaves people like me asking “As opposed to what? Fake sugar?”
As opposed to fake sugar.
Aka, corn syrup.
And it’s everywhere. Fast food places load their foods with corn syrup, even things like hamburgers, in order to make them more addictive. That chocolate syrup, that can of Ravioli Pasta in Tomato Sauce Goop–it’s all corn syrup, with corn probably listed somewhere in the first five ingredients.
And what do you know. Diabetes has increased proportionally. Imagine that.diabetes
Who would ever have guessed.
Of course, I don’t really blame the sack of puss and corn syrup at the end of the aisle, hungrily licking her lips as she estimates how many little containers of Processed Corn Pudding Goop she can suck down in twelve seconds, because she wasn’t really the one who put the Mom & Pop stores out of business–that happened when she was a teenager, and it was her parents who did it, because they couldn’t resist the temptation of paying eight-four cents for a can of Processed Corn Goop instead of a dollar and seven cents for an ear of actual fucking corn. And then they’d have to shuck it themselves, boil it, cook it, and ugh.
So much trouble.
So much easier to just save money and buy Processed Corn Goop.
I closed my eyes and silently groaned. That nasally, whiny voice could only have been my supervisor, standing on the ground behind me in his red vest lined with a white stripe, with a stupid fucking black star by his name and the words “Assistant Supervisor” under his name. I didn’t have to look at his balding head and gigantic nose, or that stupid Hitler mustache that he was so fond of–really, if you watch him sometime, you’ll see him reaching up and caressing it every few minutes.
Steve is the kind of guy who probably spends a few minutes in front of the mirror every morning reminding himself that he’s the champion of the world. He probably does that despite the fact that his wife left his impotent ass for a guy who was half his age when her uncle died and left her enough money that she could live out the rest of her days without being married to a cretin that weighed seventeen pounds and spent his college years on the Quiz Bowl team instead of getting laid. What happened, Steve? Did getting that last question in the finals wrong fuck your life up that bad? Was your entire future really riding on that one question? Because now you’re a sad, pathetic, forty-nine year old man with a combover and Hitler ‘stache, wearing a gay ass red vest with a black star on your nametag, haunted by the word Assistant Supervisor because you just can’t kiss up to Anthony’s ass hard enough or fast enough to outrank the new blonde with a huge rack.
And I’m just curious when things went wrong.
“Eric,” Steve said, this time more firmly.
“What, Steve?” I asked, but I still didn’t bother to look at him. I was too fascinated by the scene unfolding with the pile of diabetes at the end of the aisle and her daughter saying that she didn’t like butterscotch and that she wanted vanilla. What a dilemma, especially since the Repository For Corn Syrup was being paid for with food stamps that were, according to the law, intended to buy food for the children. But was it really for the children if she got the flavors that she liked, and not the flavors the kids liked?
How about an apple?
“I asked you yesterday to take the boxes from Storage Room A–the ones stacked near the door–and move them to Storage Room C so that we can bring a new shipment of–”
I asked you yesterday.
That’s why Steve had to remind himself that he was a champion every morning.
Because he wasn’t a champion.
Champions don’t ask their employees to do things, Steve. It’s not just the blonde’s huge rack that Anthony likes looking at that caused you to become her assistant, and not the other way around. It’s because people listen to Jillian. I mean, yeah, people listen to Jillian because she’s a hot blonde with huge tits, but that’s not the point. One way or another, people do the things that she asks them to do, so it doesn’t matter that she’s asking rather than telling. But you, Steve, with your combover and Hitler mustache–you have to command. And you don’t. You’re a pitiful sheep in a world ruled by lions, and the only reason you’re an assistant supervisor is that they’ve taken pity on you.
Praise your masters, Steve.
Then lick their boots.
Watching Steve suck up to Jillian is some of the best entertainment we get. We take bets on how long Steve has left before he’s fired, but it’s just a matter of time before he’s walking out the door for the final time, banned from the premises as long as Jillian works here, because Steve isn’t the kind of guy that can look at a girl’s bouncing tits without it being creepy. Some people can do that. Some guys can openly check out the goods–the real goods, not the Processed Corn Goop–and grin at the girl without her being offended–it’s just human nature, and some guys can pull it off.
Steve would be wise to grow a goatee to go with his Hitler stache. That way, something will catch his drool, and he won’t have to worry about it sliding down his chin and into the floor as he stares hungrily–almost exactly like Mrs. Diabetes down there looking over the Processed Corn Pudding Goop–at Jillian’s breasts.
“Clean up on Aisle 7. Steve was staring at Jillian’s tits again.”
“…then I’m afraid I’m going to have to file a formal reprimand,” Steve finished.
The formal reprimand.
Paperwork acknowledging that Steve came and interrupted me while I was trying to do my goddamned job, put his hands on his hips, narrowed his eyes, and told me he was disappointed in me.
Take it back, Steve!
“What?” I asked.
Steve scoffed, but it wasn’t a true scoff. It was the Wannabe Supervisor’s Scoff. It was that thing people do when they’re frustrated because their entire life is a joke and they themselves are a joke, and everything about their life sucks, and everyone knows it, but no one calls them out on it because we’re a society of civilized people. After all, we don’t even eat that uncouth, uncivilized corn. No, we eat Processed Corn Goop, by God! And so we serve up synthetic respect with about as much authentic admiration in it as there is real food in the Processed Corn Goop. Fake food, fake respect. Hell, fake faces, fake tits, fake tans, fake clothes, fake money.
“I said that if those boxes are still there when the shipment arrives, then I’ll have to file a formal reprimand!”
So there was no need for me to move the boxes before now, right? So why did I have to do it yesterday? And with all the effort you’ve spent bitching about the boxes, wouldn’t it have been faster for you to move the damned things?
“How about you move the boxes, Steve?” I asked.
Most people wouldn’t dare mouth off to a supervisor an assistant supervisor like that, but this was Steve. Mr. Combover. Mr. Hitler Mustache. Mr. Some Guy Half My Age is Fucking My Ex-Wife. This was Assistant Supervisor I’m a Champion Steve.
“I–ech–” Steve stuttered out, his typical response. He rolled his eyes and shook his head, making weird noises as he tried to process the reality that he wasn’t even worthy of Fake Respect from the people who stocked Fake Food in a Fake Society. “I asked you to do it.”
“I’m busy, Steve.”
Your entire life is a lie, Steve.
“What time is the shipment coming?” I asked. I’m not a bad person. I do feel bad for Steve. It’s not really his fault that he’s Mr. Combover.
After giving me the info, I assured Steve that I’d move the boxes by then. So Steve turned and started to walk away, but decided to mouth off a bit himself. “You’d better, otherwise I’ll have to do a formal reprimand,” he threatened again, as though that had any sway at all. That’s what’s funny about people like Fake Steve and our Fake Respect. If we don’t show that Fake Respect, and if we don’t show Fake Fear for the Fake Reprimand, then the entire system crumbles–if we don’t Fake Kneel to the Fake Threat and the Fake Consequences, then Fake Steve can’t do anything. His threat was every bit as fake as the Processed Corn Pudding Goop.
What do you do when you wake up on a mattress at eleven in the morning, to banging on your apartment front door, to the landlord outside wanting to find out why there were men coming and going from your place at all hours of the night? When you groggily look at her naked body beneath the sheet and wonder briefly why the two of you have never bothered to actually put the sheet on the bed, why you lay down on the bare mattress?
Because why bother to?
It’s that moment, with the landlord knocking at the door–and you know it’s the landlord, because it wouldn’t be anyone else–scratching the back of your neck and catching a glimpse of your naked body in the nicotine-coated mirror above the desk–when you see out of the window everyone going about their lives, running continually in circles, hamsters on a wheel.
Birth. School. Marriage. Kids. Death.
Chasing fake things in a fake society, sustaining ourselves on fake food purchased with fake money, giving fake respect to fake supervisors because of fake fear about a fake reprimand. Too many of these fake reprimands and we’ll lose our fake job putting fake food on a shelf, lose our ability to earn fake money to buy that fake food and pay our fake rent and fake taxes to a fake government that oversees a fake society and implements a fake morality to govern our fake lives.
Hamsters on a wheel. Birth, school, marriage, kids, death.
Some people say that I have an attitude problem. I say that I understand why it looks that way to them, but what I really have is a reality problem. I’ve seen through the bullshit. All these fake human constructs that we bow to, not out of wisdom or insight or progress, but simply out of habit and tradition. We were birthed on the hamster wheel and we’ll run our lives on the hamster wheel because we’ve been on it since birth, and it never even occurred to us that the hamster wheel was bullshit.
Real text messages from fake friends, that blurry line between what is actually real and what is total fiction. Fake friends born not out of love and compassion but out of circumstance–they were tolerable people that happened to be around me, and vice versa. “Your place this weekend?” the fake friend asked, wanting to watch “the game” somewhere and being too cheap to go and pay fake money at a bar for the beer that he uses to forget how much it sucks to waste his real life running on a fake hamster wheel, and too cheap to pay a fake bill for cable television–that wretched box of fake fictions that people escape into from their fake lives in a real universe.
An average child watches 1,480 minutes of television a week. That’s a figure that would horrify a real person. 24.6 hours of television every week–about 3.5 hours a day. Just sitting on their fat asses eating fake food and watching fake realities unfold. In that same year, the child will watch more than 16,000 thirty second commercials advertising fake shit for their fake parents to buy with fake money.
Why are their parents fake? Because the average person spends 5 hours and eleven minutes a day watching television.
Nothing has been more destructive to our species than television.
So now 67% of American families sit around–a stepdad or stepmom, since the divorce rate is so high, and a real parent, 2.5 kids–not at a dinner table, but on a sofa, staring at the fake realities glowing at them and eating fake food that their fake parents bought with fake money working at a fake job. I’ve never felt so patriotic.
Lana is even crazier than I am, though, and it’s thanks to her that I see all this fake bullshit for what it is.
She’s stunningly gorgeous, and sexy beyond what you can imagine since you’ve never seen anyone like her. And that was the problem. She’s part of those statistics, too, and Fake Dad had a hard time keeping his hands to himself. When she told Fake Mom, Fake Mom didn’t believe her, and even when she showed Fake Mom the bruises, she simply got grounded and was accused of seducing Fake Dad. So she ran away.
I would point out that even as a fifteen year old, Lana was sexy and gorgeous, but that would violate society’s fake morals–the same ideas that led to fake laws that would have prosecuted Fake Dad if Fake Mom had been able to tell the difference between real and fake. But a fifteen year old beautiful and sexy girl running away didn’t have an easy time of it, and she was a hooker on the streets within six months, addicted to heroin and HIV Positive. Turns out there’s no shortage of Fake Dads out there looking to fuck a fifteen year old girl away from the watchful eyes of the fake laws of a fake society.
When I met her, she was twenty years old, a year younger than myself, and propositioned me as I walked back from a night of drinking beer with fake friends and watching a fake sporting event. She was too damned sexy and too damned beautiful, so I accepted–then I visited her again the next night, and the next, and the next. Her pimp started getting irritated–apparently that industry doesn’t care much for “repeat customers”–and beat the hell out of her.
So I put a real gun to his head, pulled the real trigger, and ended his fake life.
The cops made a token effort to look into it, but a pimp and drug dealer shot and killed in a city filled with drugs and prostitutes? Hell, I did them a favor. That’s one less drug dealer and pimp on the streets. They just weren’t allowed to say it. Just like I’m not allowed to tell Steve that his life is a lie and he should kill himself. So they pretended to look into it, but even as Lana–known to be one of his girls–moved into my apartment, they didn’t even bother to come and question me. Fake rules governing a fake society. Don’t show them fake respect, and the whole thing comes apart.
The really difficult part came in later, when Lana made it clear that she intended to become a… “freelancer,” and that she had no intention of finding another line of work. She had real feelings for me, and we had a real relationship–her points about it all was that it shouldn’t matter if she had fake sex with other people. I really wasn’t ready then to accept that, but I cared too much about her to let her go, so I fake accepted it.
And at some point I just stopped caring about that. What did it matter? What did any of it matter?
“Why do you care if other guys pay to fuck me?”
That’s the question that will turn your entire world upside down if you try to come up with a real answer to it. It’s impossible to answer in the first place without laying some kind of claim on the girl, without suggesting that her pussy is yours, and that’s never a good thing to say in a relationship. Because no–her pussy is hers. And trying to go beyond that to come up with any answer at all when tear away delusions from your worldview one by one, until you’re a frightened little child crying in the corner, trying to figure out what, exactly, is real.
I ignored the banging on the door, because I knew it wouldn’t last long. Captain Stick in the Ass would get bored and waddle his fat ass back down the stairs. There wouldn’t have been a problem anyway, if it hadn’t been for the people who lived below. They were an elderly couple–well, sixty or so.
The man was a sack of fat ass–Yes, everyone is fat. I don’t know very many people who aren’t fat, in fact. Anyway, he was actually extremely fat, diabetic (which I knew because it was a topic that came up within the first fifteen seconds of talking to him), and had no idea how to speak at a proper volume. Whether you were a hundred yards away or right in his face, he was the loudest motherfucker I’ve ever met. I’ve actually met his son, and his son was a pretty cool guy who offered up the excuse that his dad had changed drastically “after he ran himself over.”
I’m sorry–come again?
Ran himself over.
He was working on his truck one day and had it jacked up, but was on a hill apparently and had done nothing to keep it from rolling. When paramedics arrived on the scene, he had been dead for 7 minutes. They managed to resuscitate him, and he recovered pretty well, but the working theory is that 7 minutes without any air going to his brain left him obnoxious as fuck. He didn’t become stupid or helpless or anything–just tremendously annoying.
His wife wasn’t any better, and she was probably fatter than he was, although shorter and with a better mustache. Neither of them worked, because they were both on disability. He was on disability because he’d been run over and never really recovered physically–which I would believe, but I don’t think he tried to recover. Like, he’s exactly the kind of diabetic people think of when they think of Adult Onset Diabetes. For years, he ate breakfast at a popular fast food place every single day, ballooning the entire time, and was finally diagnosed with diabetes. Did he stop the breakfast?
No. He simply started injecting insulin or whatever people like him do, and he continued to plop his fat fucking ass down and eat greasy fast food breakfast every single day. A year later, he had a heart attack, and the doctor finally convinced him to stop eating fast food. It didn’t really change anything, because he just had his wife start cooking the same sausage and bacon instead of ordering it, but… Baby steps, I guess.
The man was fully convinced that it was the doctors’ responsibility to simply cure him, and that he shouldn’t have to change his diet or start exercising. “That’s what I’m paying them for,” he would say. “To cure me. Why am I paying them to cure me, if what I have to do is cure myself?” He rejected it completely–the doctors were supposed to cure him and accommodate his lifestyle, diet, and laziness. Of course, he wasn’t paying the doctors anyway. The government was.
His wife and her mustache had spent about two years fighting with the government so that she could retire early on disability or something like that, and they were finally successful, which resulted in her receiving a check for something like sixteen thousand dollars for doing nothing except being lazy, fat, and ignorant, and randomly deciding one day that she just didn’t want to work anymore. Presumably, someone somewhere in the government shrugged and wrote her a fat fucking check to go into her fat fucking pocket so that she could support her husband’s addiction to fast food Processed Corn Sausage Goop.
They were deeply unhappy and deeply miserable, which meant, of course, that they had to make sure everyone else was miserable. That was something I learned very quickly after Lana shacked up with me. I hadn’t noticed it before, but… Everyone was miserable. The random people I passed on the street every single day—they were screaming on the inside, raging, thrashing, a meek soul raking its nails at the inner recesses of the mind where it was trapped. Where it was doomed to remain trapped, because we’d long since forgotten it was there.
We’re so terrified of ourselves, reality, the universe—whatever you want to call it. Existence. We quiver in fear and shake our heads, crying fetal in the floor in a panicked state of bewilderment, refusing to accept everything. So we turn our devotion to illusions, to things that are fake. We invent systems—economic, religious, political—and we devote ourselves to those, giving them significance and dedicating our lives to them in one form or another, and we become so attached to them that we allow ourselves to forget that they are fictions we created because we couldn’t bear to look reality in the face, because we’re cowards sitting in the dark trailer with the curtains drawn, aghast at the idea of looking outside because we fear we might see the face of the devil, and even though we know that we will see no such thing, we just sit there anyway.
Piles of processed corn pudding goop.
Some part of us always senses that something is wrong, though. How can we not? It requires us to maintain a state of constant cognitive dissonance, and if it slips for even a moment, there it is—bam!—oblivion, staring back at us. We know what’s on the other side of the illusion. We just don’t talk about it.
Instead we yell and scream at the fat, mustached wife who tells us that we can’t eat fast food for breakfast any longer. Instead, she yells at us for stupid shit that even she doesn’t really care about. Together, we yell at the rest of the world. We have to make sure the world is as miserable as we are, because otherwise we’ll find ourselves sitting there in isolation as laughter rings out in the darkness, shining like a light onto our roach-like lives and sending us scurrying for shadows that have been banished by the neighbor’s joviality.
Heading in unison toward the cliff with nothing but cold emptiness and eternal sleep awaiting us at the bottom, dead and too dead to even know we’re dead, like zombies as we stare up at the glowing box that beams directly to us temporary escapes from our meaningless lives as the conveyor belt of time carries us inexorably toward non-existence.
Landing at the bottom, another dead pile of processed corn pudding goop.
Clean up in aisle 7.
I’m every bit as miserable as everyone else—miserable and misanthropic. The only real difference is that I’m keenly aware of the misery that coats my soul, shiny, like Steve’s bald spot—reflecting everything outward and letting nothing true, least of all existence and life. I can’t even say that it’s really advantageous. We’re all miserable. What have I gained by accepting that?
Nothing, really. Even if we all could accept the empty desolation that is existence, it wouldn’t mean a thing for anyone. There is no conceivable change that could make things better; we’ll all continue to be miserable, simply conscious of it. And that’s when it hits you. Waking up at eleven in the morning in a ramshackle apartment, lying on a mattress that sits on the floor and that no one bothered to even cover with a sheet as some stupid dick bangs on the door, that’s when the realization hits you.
This is hell.
We live in hell.
And years and decades of life in hell has made everyone insane. They have to escape into the television sitcoms and care about them, because otherwise they have to care about hell. They have to focus on ridiculous human fictions like bank accounts and picket fences, because otherwise they have to care about hell. That’s the choice we’re given. Invisibly and subtly, because no one ever sits down to say it, but maybe they should.
“You can choose between hell or illusions.”
Maybe I’m the insane one for choosing hell.
Steve managed to wait an entire seven minutes before coming to bother me. It was just a perfect example of his insanity. Steve knew that he wanted to stand by the employee entrance, arms crossed, ready to scream and berate me as soon as I appeared. He wouldn’t do that, though—no, he had to deny himself. He had to appear civilized, this psychotic feces-flinging ape. His blood boiled, his stupid Hitler mustache quivered with rage, his face turned beet red, and his combover fell as he sat tapping his fingers on his “desk” waiting on my arrival, each second passing adding to his anger and hostility. But I wasn’t the one that Steve was angry at, not really. I was just the catalyst. Steve was angry at life, furious that he couldn’t plant himself beside the door and greet me with a string of profanities and insults.
Steve wanted corn, but there was only processed corn pudding goop.
“I need to see you in my office,” Steve said flatly to me as I pretended to be working. I was okay with that. Steve pretended to have authority, and I played along with that—it was my own dish of processed corn pudding goop. It seemed to me that the least Steve could do was play along when I pretended to be working. Speaking without any tone in his voice was what Steve understood to be “commanding,” but I’d bet all the real corn in the world that, if my back hadn’t been turned, I’d have seen that Steve’s eyes were cast down to the floor as he walked past, too weak to actually stop and speak.
I was in no hurry. Steve wasn’t going anywhere—in any sense. That’s the most generous thing that could be said of a middle aged fat man with a combover who worked as an assistant supervisor at a grocery store. “The sun is the same in a relative way, but you’re older, shorter of breath, and one day closer to death.” Steve’s conveyor belt just kept turning, and he seemed almost unaware of it. Maybe he was squeezing his eyes shut, convinced that this moment was the only moment, and therefore infinite.
So I ensured that this moment—which I’d have described as “me not sitting and being blasted by the hideous soup of gelatin, high fructose corn syrup, and bacteria that roiled in the hurricane of Steve’s mouth as his tongue lashed around frantically to skirt the border between the world of corn and the world of processed corn pudding goop, and while little devils bound his mind with chains and repeated hypnotically that he had to be civilized”—lasted as long as possible, and just stood there for a few minutes, anticipating the circus of illusions and mutual delusion that awaited me.
I stopped at a drink machine and inserted three worthless coins—fake money to buy a fake drink that I fake wanted. I wasn’t thirsty, and wouldn’t drink that liquid diabetes even if I had been, but I did enjoy the fact that Steve could see me from his office as I slowly bought it. Three quarters made of mostly copper and nickel—utterly worthless. Well, that wasn’t true. It was worth two pennies. Well, strictly speaking it was actually worth four pennies, because a penny itself wasn’t actually worth one cent, but a half of a cent. That was the game, of course—to give us money that was worth as little as possible measured in its own denominations. A twenty-five cent coin was worth two cents.
Makes perfect sense.